He loved the brook’s soft sound, The swallow swimming by. He loved the daisy-covered ground, The cloud-bedappled sky. To him the dismal storm appeared The very voice of God; And when the evening rack was reared Stood Moses with his rod. And everything his eyes surveyed, The insects in the brake, Were creatures God Almighty made, He loved them for His sake– A silent man in life’s affairs, A thinker from a boy, A peasant in his daily cares, A poet in his joy.
every so often a poem catches my breath and I feel wonder at its impact. This prophetic poem was written in 1918. The poet Philip Johnstone appears to be a pseudonym and little else is known about him. There are some preserved trenches in Belgium and France, and I too have trod the tourist’s path s at Hooge and Vimy Ridge, feeling slightly uncomfortable at indulging in battlefield tourism.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is High Wood,
Called by the French, Bois des Fourneaux,
The famous spot which in Nineteen-Sixteen,
July, August and September was the scene
Of long and bitterly contested strife,
By reason of its High commanding site.
Observe the effect of shell-fire in the trees
Standing and fallen; here is wire; this trench
For months inhabited, twelve times changed hands;
(They soon fall in), used later as a grave.
It has been said on good authority
That in the fighting for this patch of wood
Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men,
Of whom the greater part were buried here,
This mound on which you stand being…
You are requested kindly not to touch
Or take away the Company’s property
As souvenirs; you’ll find we have on sale
A large variety, all guaranteed.
As I was saying, all is as it was,
This is an unknown British officer,
The tunic having lately rotted off.
Please follow me – this way …
the path, sir, please
The ground which was secured at great expense
The Company keeps absolutely untouched,
And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide
Refreshments at a reasonable rate.
You are requested not to leave about
Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange-peel,
There are waste-paper-baskets at the gate
A cold, wet, windy weekend in store so what better excuse to settle down with some yarn, a good book, radio on one side, shelties on the other. The lentil Hashis Parmentier in the slow cooker.
One of the programmes I am looking forward to this weekend is Poetry Extra on radio 4 extra tomorrow afternoon. I don’t read much poetry but there are 5 poets who I do read and re-read constantly – John Clare, Edward Thomas, Adam Thorpe, Ivor Gurney and Norman Nicholson. If you know these poets you can probably see a common theme.
Here is Coastal Journey, taken from Norman Nicholson’s Collected Poems.
On the day that the Yorkshire Dales Park extends into Lancashire, and the Lake District National Park extends so that the borders of the two parks come within spitting distance of one another, what better way of celebrating than by sharing a poem by Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson written in a Yorkshire dialect.
First on, there was nobbut God, – Genesis 1, v 1., Yorkshire Dialect Translation.
I know not how batts propagate I have heard it asserted that they breed like mice but when I was a boy I was foolish enough to suppose they laid eggs like other birds & have often sought vainly to find them I remember there was an old ash tree in the Lordship with a woodpeckers hole in it of long standing a wryneck generally laid in it yearly & one year I swarmed up it to take the nest & on putting my hand into the hole I felt something different to what I usually met with so I hastily pulld it out when to my astonishment a multitude of batts followd in quick succession to the count of 20 or 30 I had not the hardihood to venture my hand into the hole again to satisfye my curiosity wether there was eggs in it but retreated down the tree as fast as I coud so it still remaind a mystery Batts are pleasing objects in the summer eves we usd to pull oft’ our hats when boys & keep bawling out ‘Bat bat come under my hat & I will give you a slice of bacon’ upon what superstitious notion it is founded I know not they hide in charnel vaults in steeples & old empty houses or barns it will steal its way into dairies were it feeds on the milk bacon or cheese like a mouse Collins in his delicious Ode to evening mentions it beautifully that I shall not venture to hunt up ‘other extracts to keep it company Now air is hushed save were the weak-eyd bat With short shrill shriek flits by on leatherback wing